Strategies for Sustainability: Shops and cafes – pathways to profit?

Strategies for Sustainability: Shops and cafes – pathways to profit?


The first of a series of guides produced by MyCake and Cause4 which aim to help small and medium heritage organisations make better strategic choices. Useful for any similar-sized non-profit organisation also running cafes and/or shops.


Everyone reading this guide will be familiar with the challenge of running a successful and sustainable heritage organisation – and the reality that it doesn’t get any easier, particularly if you aren’t one of the large household name organisations. What isn’t always clear is whether the challenges or opportunities you face are unique to your organisation. It can also be difficult to judge your own success, particularly in relation to others. It might similarly be hard to know if you can do better or whether you should do things differently. In other words, the sort of comparative analysis routinely undertaken in different spheres: whether comparing prospective universities or energy suppliers.

We think that it is possible to learn from what others are doing, mainly when it’s a peer group of similar-size organisations. And we believe that a good starting point is to use data about how others are doing and what they are doing so that we can compare different organisations. This approach – more commonly known as benchmarking – is often argued to be a helpful tool to help improve standards or to support decision making. (1. Jisc, 2012: What is benchmarking?)

This guide – the first in a series – aims to help you make better strategic choices in your organisation. It uses benchmarking data from similar heritage organisations to your own. It is based on an analysis of publicly available financial data provided to regulators by participants in the Heritage Compass programme in England. In this guide, we have focused on the role of cafés and shops in heritage organisations, often the first step in income generation for those seeking a financially sustainable future. We believe that the data from these organisations offers helpful insight into growth, sustainability and success.

And to help see the bigger picture, we have benchmarked this cohort against a comparison group of similar sized non-profit organisations also running cafés and shops.

This learning doesn’t replace peer advice, good local knowledge, or community engagement, but it does give helpful scaffolding for the development and growth of trading income from cafés and shops.

We hope that this learning can support your hard work and decision making with some concrete data to help you run a more successful and sustainable heritage organisation.

MyCake and Cause4


Read the guide: Shops and cafes - pathways to profit?  (PDF) 

Browse by learning pillars
Business Planning
Browse by smart tags
Cafes Diversifying income Retail
Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2022